RUSH: The Steve Bannon interview… I’ve been getting emails all day from people who want my take on this, so I’m gonna go ahead and get into this now. I got to tell you again up front, I don’t know the guy. I haven’t even…
He’s been in a room twice when I have been with the president, but I’ve never been formally introduced even, and I’ve never spoken directly to him. So none of this is, to me, based on any personal knowledge I have of Bannon or the arrangement that Trump and Bannon have. All I can do is speculate hire, which I’ll be happy to do. Now, the reason that Washington’s in a tizzy today is because Bannon called Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect for an exclusive interview. This would be like Reagan calling Pravda.
Unreal, of all the people Bannon could call, he calls Kuttner at The American Prospect. He calls somebody that hates Trump as much as anybody hates Trump, and it was not off the record. He wanted it known. Whatever was in this interview, Bannon wants out there, and it’s out there. I watched Karl Rove react to it today and he was beside himself. He just could not believe any of this. He couldn’t believe any aspect of it, thought it was the craziest, strangest, oddest, dumbest thing he’s ever seen from any administration.
I’m not gonna share with you the whole thing. I’ve pared this down to its bare essence. “Bannon was in high spirits when he phoned me Tuesday afternoon…” This is Kuttner. This is the leftist anti-Trumpster. “Bannon was in high spirits when he phoned me Tuesday afternoon to discuss the politics of taking a harder line with China, and minced no words describing his efforts to neutralize his rivals at the Departments of Defense, State, and Treasury. …
“‘We’re at economic war with China,’ [Bannon] added. ‘It’s in all their literature. They’re not shy about saying what they’re doing. One of us is going to be a hegemon in 25 or 30 years and it’s gonna be them if we go down this path. On Korea, they’re just tapping us along. It’s just a sideshow.'” Hegemon, dominant… Hegemon means the big winner in this context. So Bannon is saying everything going on out there that you see with Korea, it’s a sideshow. It’s not really what’s important. What’s important is our economic war with China, and if we’re not careful we’re gonna lose it.
This is a slap at Trump, and it’s being seen as a slap at Trump because of additional comments that Bannon made on North Korea. Now, Kuttner wrote the following: “Bannon said he might consider a deal in which China got North Korea to freeze its nuclear buildup with verifiable inspections and the United States removed its troops from the peninsula,” south of the DMZ, “but such a deal seemed remote. Given that China is not likely to do much more on North Korea, and that the logic of mutually assured destruction was its own source of restraint, Bannon saw no reason not to proceed with tough trade sanctions against China.”
What struck me about this is the way Kuttner wrote this. “Bannon said he might consider…” He’s not talking about Trump. He’s talking about himself. “Bannon said he might consider a deal in which China got North Korea to freeze its nuclear buildup,” and then he went further on North Korea. You know, Trump has been out there promising fire and fury, and Trump has been really launching at Kim Jong-un, and he’s been making it clear that if Kim Jong-un launches at Guam or does anything, that there’s gonna be hellfire to pay — and Bannon undercut all of that in this interview.
“Contrary to Trump’s threat of fire and fury, Bannon said: ‘There’s no military solution (to North Korea’s nuclear threats), forget it. Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us.'” Okay. So, once again, Bannon portrays himself as the architect of thinking and policy on Korea, not Trump, just as Bannon said he might consider a deal in which China got…
So Bannon is conveying here that he is the decision-maker and strategist on these foreign policy subjects or questions and that Trump is just along for the ride. I think there’s a reason for this. I’ll tell you what it is in a minute here. But this is a… Folks, there’s no question, Bannon here in this interview just threw Trump’s North Korea policy under the bus. Because what Trump has been talking, in terms of tough talk with Kim Jong-un is, in fact, a military response by us.
If Kim Jong-un starts something, if he launches and hits Guam or any other American target, Trump has made it clear that it might be the last thing Kim Jong-un ever does. Bannon just threw that under the bus. Nah, nah, nah. He said, “There’s no military solution, forget it.” (paraphrased) “I don’t know what you’re talking about. No military solution at all here. They got us on that.” Meaning: We’re paralyzed; we can’t stop the North Koreans.
Bannon goes on to say they’re not even the problem. North Korea is not what it’s about. “‘To me,’ Bannon said, ‘the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.’ Bannon’s plan of attack includes: a complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there, and follow-up complaints against steel and aluminum dumping.
“‘We’re going to run the tables on these guys. We’ve come to the conclusion that they’re in an economic war and they’re crushing us,'” and we have to stop it. Now, Trump has alluded throughout the campaign and even in his days of president… He has alluded to the nefarious tactics and activities of the ChiComs. So on this, Bannon seems consistent with Trump. Now, this “complaint under Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act against Chinese coercion of technology transfers from American corporations doing business there,” what that means…
You know, Apple assembles iPhones and iPads and home pods and any number of gadgets in China, and therefore Chinese manufacturing companies are aware of them. They are exposed to Apple technology, they are exposed to Apple secrets, and the 1974 Trade Act prevents a host nation like China from coercing tech secrets, trade secrets, from, say, a company like Apple in order for Apple to continue to be allowed to do business there.
And Bannon’s talking about filing a complaint that the ChiComs are violating this. That they’re actually engaged in theft of intellectual and technological property and saying that this can’t stand and that they’re way ahead of us on this. And if we don’t get our act in gear in 10 years tops, the ChiComs are gonna beat us and it’s over and North Korea’s a sideshow, it doesn’t matter, it’s irrelevant. And then he was asked, “What about all the people that don’t like you, Steve? State Department, defense department.”
“They’re wetting themselves,” Bannon said. They’re peeing in their pants. “I’m changing out people at East Asian Defense. I’m getting hawks in there. I’m getting Susan Thornton out at State.” Not Trump. Bannon is supposedly clearing out all the Obama embeds in there. He’s getting rid of Susan Thornton. She’s the acting head of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department. I’m getting rid of these people that are thwarting our agenda. They’re wetting themselves. I don’t care.”
Kuttner says, “Can Bannon really win that internal fight?” Bannon said, “That’s a fight I fight here every day, and we’re still fighting. There’s Treasury, the national economic council chair Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs lobbying, I’m fighting against these people every day.”
Now, I find it interesting, the lead headline at Drudge right now — this is hours after this interview was published. This is key, with Bannon saying here, “Yeah, I fight these guys inside this administration every day, Treasury, the economic council chairman Gary Cohn, these Goldman Sachs lobbyists, I’m fighting ’em every day.” The lead story at Drudge right now: “Gary Cohn Resignation Would ‘Crash Markets,’ Stocks Fall.”
Okay. So somebody is responding to Bannon’s claim here that he’s doing everything he can to get rid of Gary Cohn and that would mean get rid of Dina Powell, and that would mean get rid of the influence of Jared and Ivanka. He’s doing everything he can to get rid of that in order save this administration, the people trying to sabotage him.
Well, those people have responded because this is — let me click on the link. I did it once. CNBC. Let me see what is it. Yeah, CNBC’s got the story. A Gary Cohn resignation would crash the markets, would sink the stock market. Now, Rove was saying, “I can’t believe this. I can’t believe that Trump has anybody on his staff that would do this. I can’t believe that Trump doesn’t get rid of this guy yesterday. I can’t believe that Trump would be afraid to get rid of this guy. What kind of a functioning White House staff is there if the president is afraid of an aide?” And the reason for the fear I’ll explain here in just a moment.
Final point. Kuttner says: “I asked Bannon about the connection between his program of economic nationalism and the ugly white nationalism epitomized by the racist violence in Charlottesville and Trump’s reluctance to condemn it. Bannon, after all, was the architect of the strategy of using Breitbart to heat up white nationalism and then rely on the radical right as Trump’s base.”
That is BS, and that is exactly the point I made in the previous hour. They’re trying to characterize what you saw in Charlottesville as the Trump base, and it’s not big enough to be the Trump base, it’s not even close.
They’re trying to portray you in this audience who voted for Trump as no different from those lunatics that you saw protesting the white supremacists, the Nazis, and the Klan in Charlottesville. And Kuttner is doing it here in his question to Bannon.
Bannon’s answer to this was: “He dismissed the far right as irrelevant and sidestepped his own role in cultivating it: ‘Ethno-nationalism — it’s losers. It’s a fringe element. I think the media plays it up too much, and we gotta help crush it, you know, uh, help crush it more. These guys are a collection of clowns,'” is what he said about the Klan and the Nazis and the white supremacists, a collection of clowns. And Rove was upset, a collection of clowns, is that the best you can do? They’re worse than a collection of clowns. People laugh at clowns, what do you mean a collection of clowns? That’s horrible, that’s rotten, is that the worst he could say about ’em?” People are having that kind of reaction.
But then Bannon said this. And this is one of the top three things in this interview that’s got Washington going bzz bzz bzz bzz bzz bzz. “‘The Democrats,’ Bannon said, ‘the longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats.'” We’ll wipe the floor with them.
So Bannon’s claiming he loves the media focus on this stuff. He loves the Democrats running around acting offended and outraged. Identity politics, race, that’s the greatest distraction we could have foisted on ’em, ever. Let ’em keep talking about that and we are gonna steamroller them with massive economic improvements.
Once again the overall flavor of the interview is that Trump is not president, Bannon is. That Bannon is doing all these things, Trump is taking his advice and doing it. “I want this, I’m doing this, you give me that and I’ll take that. Yes, I’m glad the media is doing that, hell, yes, I don’t care. North Korea, that’s a sideshow. China, that’s the real enemy, that’s what I’m focused on. I’m doing everything I can to get rid of Gary Cohn and the Goldman Sachs –” So why do this? Why do it? And that’s what all the intrigue in Washington’s really all about.
And I will weigh in on that myself. There’s some possibilities here. But to understand the possibilities you have to have been privy to some of the scuttlebutt that’s going around, which, of course, as a powerful, influential member of the media, I am aware of the scuttlebutt, which makes any analysis informed.
RUSH: Okay. One of the possibilities with Bannon and — by the way, Bannon has now spoken again to the U.K. Daily Mail saying, “Hey, this was good today, this interview with Kuttner, ’cause it took all the focus off Trump today. It put the focus on me, took the focus away from Trump, and that was good, I did a service.” And to the extent that it took the focus off Trump, it did, but it’s by no means gonna change anything in that regard. The media’s not gonna forget about Trump, is the point.
So the scuttlebutt is, folks, for the past month that Bannon’s been on the outs and that he was just a gnat’s eyelash away from being fired. But Trump is reluctant to fire him because of what Bannon knows. And would rather keep Bannon inside the tent and maybe isolate him rather than fire him and have Bannon go out there and start launching on Trump because there’s a fear — I think this is misguided — but there’s a fear that Bannon could talk Trump’s voters out of supporting him.
Let me ask you, if Bannon leaves the White House, he resigns or is fired, and then starts and goes back to Breitbart or goes on TV and radio every night and starts down-talking Trump, is it gonna convince to you abandon Trump? It won’t. But apparently there’s people inside the White House who think that Bannon has that power. That nobody else, only Trump and Bannon could actually destroy the Trump connection with his base.
The other possibility here is related to the first, that Bannon goes out and does this ’cause he’s heard and knows that Kelly doesn’t like him and Trump’s mad at him and wants him gone, and so this could be almost an example. Okay, you fire me, look at what you’re in for. This is just a taste of what I’m gonna do to you. There’s all kinds of intrigue going on here with this. Karl Rove cannot believe that there’s a presidential administration where an aide has this kind of power, the ability to be such a damn distraction.
RUSH: Now, there’s another theory about Bannon, I guess a third one, and that is that Bannon doesn’t want to resign, he wants to get fired. Now, this theory again requires a belief that Trump’s base actually loves Bannon more than Trump and that Trump’s base likes Trump because of Bannon.
Folks, when I tell you this, don’t doubt me. There are people all over Washington, D.C., who think that Steve Bannon made Trump, that Trump didn’t have anything to do with it. And they think that Trump has words put in his mouth by Bannon. This is why, when Trump had his press conference yesterday, whenever it was and started answering questions about Bannon, he reminds people that Bannon didn’t come on until after he’d won the nomination, for all intents and purposes.
Trump tries to make it clear that Bannon had nothing to do with him winning the nomination. He hired Bannon to be CEO of the presidential campaign. He goes to great pains, “Look, I’ve known Bannon awhile, but he didn’t come on board here, he wasn’t here at the beginning. He didn’t have anything to do with this at the beginning.” So there’s something going on internally here.
There was a book that came out a couple of months after Trump’s inauguration. The subject of the book was how Bannon was the architect of Trump’s presidency. And supposedly Trump is steamed over that, which I totally understand, by the way. I would completely understand if that’s true. I also have been told long before Trump even ran for president that if you work for Trump, you sign a nondisparagement agreement, kind of like an NDA, a nondisclosure. You promise that you will not disparage Trump after you leave his employ. You sign that, and it’s like a $10 million penalty, potential lawsuit.
I don’t know if those things survive White House staff basically having them. They don’t stop people from talking in most cases, but they can, they can be helpful, NDAs, nondisparagement agreements. But the important thing about all of these theories is they are all predicated on the fact that Bannon can destroy Trump, because in the media’s eyes Bannon made Trump. Trump is too dumb to have made himself. Trump is too rough around the edges. Trump is not a deep enough thinker, and he’s not nearly a brilliant strategist. Trump couldn’t have gotten himself elected. That’s what they all think. Bannon did that.
The people inside the Beltway are captivated by this. They really believe that Trump will not fire Bannon because Trump knows that Bannon can destroy him because they think that all that has to happen is for Bannon to go on TV and tell Trump’s voters that Trump’s a phony and Trump’s this and that Trump’s voters will abandon him. Inside the Beltway analysts actually believe that Trump’s voters are more loyal and more devoted and more appreciative of Bannon than they are Trump. Do not doubt me on this. If you don’t understand that, you won’t understand these theories as you read them. That Bannon is the creator of populism, for example. That Bannon is the creator of Trump Nationalism. That Bannon is the guy who created the Alt-Right, who is Trump’s base. All of that is just total BS.
It was mainstream Americans that signed up and voted for Donald Trump. Mainstream Americans all over the country. There aren’t enough of these ragtag wackos to elect anybody president. The Alt-Right, nobody ever heard of, by the way, until Trump came along. You ever heard of the Alt-Right, Snerdley? Last year. That’s what, I mean. Five years ago you ever heard of the Alt-Right? I’ll tell you what I heard. There’s always been on the internet the alt discussion groups. I forget the name of them, a wacko fringe of the internet, and somehow Alt-Right ends up being created, and they credit Bannon with that.
So inside the Beltway, the Washington establishment, Trump is a buffoon. And that’s why they can’t believe he won, and they really think that Bannon could destroy him, and they think that Trump knows it. And so that’s why they will tell you that Trump is very reluctant to let him go, ’cause Trump knows that Bannon could blow up his coalition. And I think it’s so much BS, I can’t tell you. But this is what they think.
And I’m just sharing this with you because you’re gonna be hearing and reading about all this, and you’re gonna hear all these theories about what Bannon’s doing and why he’s doing it and why Trump doesn’t fire him and why Trump will fire him or why Bannon won’t just quit. I’m telling you, to understand the theories, you have to understand that the people talking about it think that Bannon’s the Svengali and that Trump is an empty vessel wandering around every day doing what Bannon says, and that’s how he got elected.
RUSH: I need to clear up some confusion. I was not saying that an NDA is a non-disparagement agreement. I was talking a non-disparagement agreement and an NDA. Trump does both. He has non-disparagement agreements with some of his employees. Under penalty of $10 million fine, you are not allowed to disparage Trump while you work for him. A nondisclosure agreement is a totally different thing. You’re not allowed to discuss or disclose anything you saw or witnessed or heard when you worked for somebody or when you’re in their employee.
I’m telling you, I’ve heard that Trump has non-disparagement agreements in his private business. I don’t know that it carried over to the White House staff, but I’ll bet they have, and I’ll bet Bannon has one — and I’ll bet a lot of people in there do. Look, I need to say this one more time, ’cause every time that I explain it to the staff here, they can’t believe it. I am telling you, folks, there are what you would consider to be mainstream conservative blogs and websites who literally believe that Steve Bannon is what got Trump elected and that Steve Bannon, if fired, could destroy Trump.
There are people who think that Trump’s base was created by Bannon — they are Alt-Right white nationalists and so forth — and that if Bannon ever turned on Trump, that everybody that voted for Trump would abandon Trump if Bannon leaves. I think that’s just so much BS, I can’t tell you, and so does the staff in here who voted for Trump. But I’m telling you that people inside the Beltway in what you would think are mainstream publications literally believe that, just like many of them literally believe that Russia colluded with Trump.
No matter the evidence, they think it happened. There is so much visceral hatred, dislike, disappointment in Trump being president that these views are far more widespread than you would believe. I would venture to say that most Trump voters had never heard of Steve Bannon even when he was named chief strategist. But, that’s not what they think.